POLITICS

Can The Trans Pacific Partnership Be Saved?

Probably not, despite the chipper talk.

17/01/2017 8:17 PM AEDT | Updated 17/01/2017 8:34 PM AEDT
Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters
Delegates protesting against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement hold up signs during the first sesssion of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump's opposition to the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership has sparked a political slinging match in Australia about the future of the deal.

Labor leader Bill Shorten and his spokesman for Trade and Investment, Jason Clare, have declared the massive trade deal is dead without U.S. backing, while the Federal government is holding on to it.

What is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

  • The TPP is a trade agreement involving 12 countries -- but notably not China.
  • Would cut tariffs and deepen economic ties between the signatories.
  • It's pretty big. If signed, it would cover about 40 per cent of the world economy.
  • The secrecy surrounding the deal has made it highly controversial.
  • The current deal can only go ahead if its ratified by at least six nations that make up 85 percent of the combined GDP of the 12 TPP nations.
  • The U.S. makes up 60 percent of the combined GDP of that group, and Japan less than 20 percent -- meaning the conditions for the deal can't be met without the U.S.

The finalised proposal was signed in February last year in Auckland, New Zealand, concluding seven years of negotiations. Trump has previously vowed to turf it out in his first 100 days in office.

"If the government introduces legislation, then that'll go to shadow cabinet, and we'll make a decision then, but ... the important point here is the TPP is dead, and it's dead because the Trump administration killed it," Clare told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Kyodo News via Getty Images
Abe (L) and Turnbull (R) said on the weekend their countries will continue to work in close coordination with the United States after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo hit back, saying the 12-nation agreement could be resurrected, suggesting that Labor were "weak in the face of the smallest obstacles".

He told the ABC that Australia needed to give the US time to work through the process.

"We're only 10 months into a 24-month process and things can change," he said.

The opposition hasn't said whether they will oppose legislation for the TPP, and the government reportedly still intends to introduce it to parliament.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on the weekend he and Turnbull have agreed to commit to bringing the TPP deal into effect.

"We confirmed that we would coordinate toward the early entry into force of the TPP and the prompt conclusion of the RECP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership]," Abe said.

Trumping The Pacific Partnership

But a trade deal without America's 250 million consumers and massive economy?

"The TPP is a total paper tiger without the United States -- it's meaningless," said Dr Allan Patience, Honorary Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute.

"Even with the United States, the TPP has highly dubious benefits for Australia and there are a lot of negative possibilities should it goes ahead."

"With Trump saying he is going to pull out, that's the end of it."Dr Andrew Patience

"Really, it's a kind of dream world of hardline, neo-classical, economic rationalist policy makers who believe free trade brings immediate riches."

On Monday, Turnbull indicated he didn't take Trump's TPP talk seriously, and compared the controversial president elect to his predecessors.

"Let me say, just in terms of the TPP, historically, American Presidents have campaigned against free trade deals, President Obama did, President Clinton did, but then in office have generally supported them," he told reporters on Monday.

The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Trans Pacific Partnership is unpopular among U.S. Democrats as well as the Republican party. This image shows protesters stating their position during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.

"There has been active consideration among the countries -- the other countries in the TPP -- as to how the agreement can proceed without the United States or proceed pending the United States making a decision."

With Trump taking office on Saturday morning (Australian time), the final decision could come sooner than hoped.

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